Cubans have been fleeing in greater numbers since the Aug. 5 riots in Havana that prompted Cuban leader Fidel Castro to threaten another Mariel. President Clinton last week ended a 28-year policy of granting automatic political asylum to Cuban refugees, ordering the Coast Guard to intercept Cuban boat people and take them to Guantanamo.
Cuba Fact Sheet
Population: 10 million
Population density: 241 inhabitants per square mile
Area: 42,803 square miles
Coastline: 2,231 miles
A Hard Life
Gross national product per capita:
People in poverty: 900,000
People without safe water: 200,000
People without sanitation: 900,000
Malnourished children under five: 75,000
Children dying before age five: 3,000
Children not in school: 66,000
Adult literacy: 1992: 95% (1970: 87%)
Education spending as % of GNP: 6.6% in 1990 (5% in 1960)
Life expectancy: 1992: 75.6 years (1960 63.8 years)
The Life-Risking Trip
The journey: 90 miles
Typical crossing time: Three to five days
The risks: Rafters must cut across the powerful Gulf Stream current, which flows at a speed of 2 m.p.h.. It they fail, the Gulf Stream can carry them up the Florida coast, raising the risk of death from exposure and dehydration.
Failure rate: Refugee aid groups in Florida estimate that at least 25% of rafters do not survive the journey.
Policing The Water
Coast Guard cutters have set up a picket line in the Straits of Florida to intercept Cubans. Form the cutters, refugees are transferred to Navy ships for the two-day trip to Guantanamo. Here is a list of the vessels involved:
Coast Guard in area (intercepting rafts and boats headed for Florida)
32 full-sized cutters
35 smaller boats
14 search aircraft
Navy Ships in area (ferrying refugees to Guantanamo)
1 guided-missile cruiser
2 landing-ship docks
8 guided-missile frigates
Navy ships en route
1 hospital ship
Cubans rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard
As of Aug. 22, 1994: 13,097
The U.S. Foothold on Cuban Soil
The U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is a relic of the burst of American expansionism that began with the Spanish-American War. Today, it is the only U.S. base in a communist country.
Size: 45 square miles of land and water.
Personnel: 6,600 U.S. military and civilian personnel.
Reinforcement dispatched: 7,000 to 8,000 extra soldiers are expected to be sent.
Dependents evacuated: The approximately 1,700 Navy dependents were scheduled to be evacuated late this week.
Military value: A key training site for U.S. warships and forces in the Caribbean. Provides 10-minute access to deep water for large ships. Ideal electronic surveillance post for monitoring Cuba military and other activities in the Caribbean.
Lease agreement with Cuba: United States sends Cuba a check for $4,085 a year, which Fidel Castro refuses to cash because his government does not recognize the agreement allowing U.S. access to the base.
1903: United States takes over land after lease is negotiated after Spanish-American War.
1934: Treaty guarantees use of base forever unless America decides to withdraw.
1959: Travel between base and Cuba cut off after Castro revolution.
1962: Several thousand reinforcements sent during Cuban missile crisis; civilians evacuated.
1979: United States orders special maneuvers when U.S. intelligence services claim to have discovered additional Soviet troops.
1991: Moscow pulls out 11,000 Soviet troops and military advisers.
Sources: Human Development Report, 1994; Times staff and wire reports.